Fear. It is a human emotion emotion triggered by a perceived threat, with “perceived” being the operative word, whether the threat is real or imagined. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals the fight, flight, or freeze response in our brains. By sending signals to the hypothalamus, this response stimulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It can’t discern whether you’re being followed in a dark parking lot, or afraid of something you heard on the news.
Fear is based on our mind’s projections into the future. Its a mental invention and experience of a reality that doesn’t and may never exist. We create terrifying story lines and rehearse them over and over again in our minds to the point that we begin to actually believe them. By watching the incessant coverage on the COVID-19 on the news and discussing it with friends; posting about it on social media; getting into heated discussions, and seeing people wearing mask everywhere you go, that fear becomes more and more real. Being afraid of what may or may not happen can only potentially perpetuate it. It’s easy to amplify something negative by simply reacting to it.
Think of your fears like this: Say you have a dream that you were in a terrible car accident. You wake up and think: “Phew! It was only a dream!” You feel a great sense of relief because you don’t have to deal with any injuries, car insurance, car repairs, or having to get a new car. Your mind created trauma, and you believed it at the time, but it wasn’t real.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the severity of the virus and the terrible impact it could have on millions of lives, and it has. However, a percentage of that impact is no doubt due to our fears — fears that been collectively felt around the globe.
We as simple humans have the tendency to base our actions and decisions on fear and fear alone. Fear is often a mindset: Fear of failure; fear of the unknown; fear that something bad is going to happen to us. These are irrational and unsubstantiated fears. What you’re afraid of isn’t a reality, but it is a reality you can create if you allow it take hold.
Right now, a lot of people are afraid. There’s a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Just a few short months ago, there was an order of things that felt familiar. Now that order has turned into utter chaos. The topic of the coronavirus has created a collective consciousness of fear and uncertainty. We’re afraid of what’s going to happen with our jobs and the economy. We’re afraid to gather in groups. We are afraid of what might happen if we don’t wear a mask and remain in quarantine.
A great deal of fear has been created by the likes of our politicians, the media, social media, and marketers. It’s the illusory truth effect. We begin to believe the information to which we are repeatedly exposed. Many here in southern California actually believe that going to the beach is a crime equivalent to that of committing mass murder.
Fear also creates a mob mentality. If everyone else is doing it, I better do it too! This is why once one major business closed in response to the coronavirus, e.g. Disney, everyone else followed in suit. It’s the mentality that once one major organization makes a statement, anyone who goes against it is automatically deemed ignorant and an idiot. It’s the ultimate act of FOMO.
This mob mentality has trickled down to our personal relationships. Fear is causing people to actually report friends and neighbors who are not abiding by the social distancing rules. Hello? 1933- 1945 called. It wants Nazi Germany back.
Fear also drives us to action because fear of some sort of pain or misfortune is a much greater motivator than the enticement of pleasure. This isn’t always a negative. Sometimes that motivation, which was stemmed by fear can create positive change. Think Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela.
Humans spend more time in the world of worry, doubts, fear, trials and tribulations than they do in the world of joy, love, peace and gratitude. We are drawn to the drama. It’s almost like we would prefer something bad to happen so our fears are justified, and we can say we were right. “See! I was afraid it would happen, and it did! I was right!”
One thing to keep in mind is your thoughts are a form of energy. This is how your thoughts become things. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you continue to think that suddenly everyone is going to catch the coronavirus and die, or catch anything for that matter, you begin to believe it will happen, so you curl up in a corner, rocking back and forth in your N95 mask just praying it’ll all over over soon. In our minds, everyone is dying.
Over the past couple weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion and debate over re-opening America. And, even though there are many states that are now fully open, there is still a divide. There are those who are on Team Remain in Quarantine (Team RQ) and those, like yours truly, who are on Team Reopen America (Team RA).
I want to get back to work. I want to start getting paid again. I want to pay my bills. I want others to get back to work and restore their livelihoods. I want fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners to be able to reopen their businesses. I want their employees to be able to get back to work so they can resume earning a paycheck. I want nonprofits to be able to resume getting much needed donations so they can continue to carry out their world changing missions.
I personally believe that many of those those who are on Team RQ are on that team for one key reason: Fear. There’s no denying that the relentless bombardment of coronavirus news has caused an increase in anxiety levels. Combine that with economic fears and the frustrations associated with being isolated in quarantine, and you have a ticking time bomb of societal outrage.
In a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation published April 21, almost half of the people polled said that their worries and stress about the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
They are worried about something that may or may not happen. We have created this collective consciousness of fear based on the abstract. The truth is, you are more likely to die from other causes than the coronavirus.
I truly believe the virus has spread more by mouth than by deed. Fear creates a reality and what’s going on in our world is proof. Did fear create the coronavirus? No, but I believe it has perpetuated a great deal of other negative side effects. We are living in a narrative of fear and despair.
Rather than fear, try to have faith. Start by creating a mental narrative of health and well-being rather than one that’s based on fear and an illusory negative future situation that isn’t even real. Be grateful every moment of every day for the tangible good you have right in front of you, and when you do, you will feel a shift in perception and energy. You will feel a greater sense of calm and ease about all that’s going on in the world around us.